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INT: Shia LaBeouf

Once in a while, an actor suddenly becomes all the rage. After years of doing roles in television, independent films or other mediums, they just begin to rise. And the next thing you know, they are all over the place. Such is the case for Shia LaBeouf. He started out on the Disney Channel with "Even Stevens" and recently, he is about to take off with the Michael Bay action flick TRANSFORMERS. He can also be heard as an animated surfing penguin in SURF’S UP. But this week, you will be able to catch him in the REAR WINDOW/FRIGHT NIGHT thriller DISTURBIA. And you know what? He’s very good. He has to have the ability to carry this flick to a certain extent, and frankly, he carries it well.

So when he came to chat at The Four Seasons in Beverly Hills , we were ready for him. I had previously spoken with him regarding SURF’S UP and I noticed the same, serious, somewhat cocky young man who is getting a shot at the big time. He is the kind of guy that takes pride in what he does, if almost a bit too much. Yet there is no denying he has presence and charisma to spare. On screen, he brings a very real, no bullshit performance which his director, D.J. Caruso talked about.

Shia is young and will most likely be a very big star. He knows that his star is on the rise yet he still considers himself an actor, and this is true. He is an actor with talent albeit a bit too self-serious. But his honesty in talking about his ex-drug dealing father and his feelings toward working with Bill Paxton as a director is surprisingly candid. And before this summer is over, there may be very few who don’t know the name Shia LaBeouf.

Shia LaBeouf

We just heard from Sarah [Roemer] and Aaron [Yoo] that you guys hated each other and stayed away from each other on the set.

We had a lot of fun. It’s a great group of people. Aaron showed up and he was always like the energy. You feel down working with cadavers all day in dust, in complete solitude. And then you get around Aaron and he’s just an explosion of complete energy. I don’t know how he was in here but I bet he was pretty loud and energetic. Where Sarah is sort of this mysterious, she’s got a criminal side to her. She’s very sexy because you can’t figure her out. She’s got a shield. She’s there but she’s not. I still haven’t figured her out. She had tough upbringing which makes her even more interesting because she wounded.

How did you build your relationship with David Morse on the set?

I didn’t. I had no relationship with him. He didn’t talk to me for two months. The only time we started to talk was during the fight scenes, and the only reason we would talk during the fight scenes is because he would say to me, “Duck, because I’m going to swing now.” And I remember during the fight scenes, this is how intimidating it was, he slams my head into the table and he picks it up, and this is like the third or fourth take, and he comes up and this finger is going this way and this finger is broken, three fingers are broken, and he looks at his hand and he goes, “I’m good to go, how about you?” and we’d go again. He didn’t complain. He never flinched. It was never like, “Aw f*ck, my fingers are broken.” There was none of that. And he’s seven feet tall.

Talk a little about what appealed you to this project. There are a lot of thriller genre films and a lot of actors would kind of even shy away from even considering them.

Because they are one-notey usually, they only have one tone. The way this was pitched to me was like we’re going to take “Straw Dogs” and the “Rear Window” element and we’re going to take in “Say Anything” and we’re going in that. The more options, I mean, it’s the best. The possibilities were endless. It was genre jumping. The way that D.J. explained it to me and knowing [Steven] Spielberg was involved, and knowing he could make a movie like “The Salton Sea” and now he was making a movie for a different age group, you knew it wasn’t going to be trash.

You knew it was going to be something interesting. They wouldn’t be involved, and David wouldn’t be involved. When I first got involved, there was no cast. It was me, D.J. and Spielberg. And then David came on board, and it was like oh, this is going to be sick because now we have one of the greatest character actors on the movie with us. And then we got Carrie-Anne Moss who everybody thinks… is because of the power of “The Matrix” Carrie-Anne Moss is 20 years before “The Matrix”, happened she was all over the place. Now she’s in mommy mode, she just gave birth in life. She was nursing in rehearsals. You hugged her and it felt like she was a mom.

It was fun for us to be able to re-introduce people to Carrie-Anne Moss. So there was a lot of interesting elements to it. Plus we didn’t cast the pretty blonde. We cast the interesting, wounded [girl]. D.J. started mixing it up a lot. Knowing that you were going to be in the Jimmy Stewart seat and that there wasn’t going to be a lot of scenery for you to chew up for the camera. Priority number one, and the movie hinges on the success of my performance, knowing that you have all those eyes on you, making sure you are safe, seventy professionals who are all involved in the success of your performance because they want the movie to be good, nobody works on movies to make a shitty movie.

How did D.J. set you up for the spatial relationship between you and your house?

The house was wild because there was a David Fincher window. There was the “Say Anything” window. You would have to transition because, like I said, it was all over the place. You’d be laughing one minute. There’d be romance, then humor one minute, then back to the humor, and then to the horror, and the transitions would be strange. I’d come out of the bathroom having taken a shit or something and I’ve just eaten a peanut butter and chocolate and I’m feeling this weezy-woozy thing come out and just as my dad’s room is right there.

So you have to go from taking a shit to being in this reflective look back at the father that you’ve lost all in five seconds, and then back into that scene and back to that window. So the transitions were very tough because you have to find timing and you don’t want to make the transitions so long, and the movie starts dragging, but you’ve got so many genres you want to pull off and different emotions that you want to give the audience that sometimes that’s the hardest thing.

Also in that vein, the tangible familiarity, did you live on the set a little bit? Did you spend a lot of time when people weren’t on set just to get a sense that you were actually there, to sell that?

You make a movie [and] 15 hours a day, you’re in a certain location, that’s living somewhere. I spent more time in that set than I did at my house, and that’s living somewhere.

How did you prepare mentally and emotionally for the whole “trapped” element [of your performance]? You’re isolated in this house. What kind of things were you tapping into?

I had a lot of phone calls and meetings with people who were on house arrest, just finding mannerisms and things. Because there are certain small things that you wouldn’t have thought, like the fact that they only watch reality shows. There’s a big statement in that, in the fact that they don’t watch any false representations of life, they only watch documentaries and things. It’s tough on house arrest. It’s like dangling meat in front of a dog. Everything is available but nothing is available.

You can see it all but you can’t have any of it. So when you have a reality show, that’s your own sense of reality. I remember somebody saying to me, “ I don’t watch sitcoms. My life is already f*cked enough.” And then through this OCD [Obsessive Compulsive Disorder] thing, where they start organizing, [For example], all the red shit has to be in a corner. All the blue shit has to be in a corner. Or they start cleaning everything and then they start destroying everything, and they start rebuilding everything. They all have the same thing – they clean first and then they destroy. It’s always in that order.

Were you ever grounded and stuck in your house?

I never had parents who were the grounding type.

When you’re playing to a teenage audience, is that in the scripted or do you have to make that character more relatable them? Do think about how they are going to relate to you, or is it just there in the script?

Everyone’s involved, not just me but the electrician, the grips, everyone. That’s how D.J. creates. [D.J. would say], “what do you think, Bill?” Bill is the craft services guy. [Bill would respond] “…my kid would never say that.” It was just completely inclusive. We’ve got seventy minds. People are involved in life. They’re experts at it. Everybody’s opinion matters. Especially the actors, he’d give us a lot of leeway if there was something in there like, “you’re a lame duck.” I don’t know many people my age who have said that. You could make it work but is there something [else]. You just try different ways. A lot of the lingo and what not we would play around with.

What about the physical movement?

There are certain scenes where I’m on a balcony with Sarah, where that’s completely me and D.J. throwing ideas off the wall. There was something scripted, but the something scripted we tried but we didn’t like and then we would go into something else. Me and D.J. would just throw ideas around. We would start writing four days before that scene would come up while we were shooting something else and then there would be another scene. The most important scenes we would work because they are landmarks in the story, especially that where you’re professing your love to a girl. If that doesn’t work the movie is in trouble.

Could you talk about your character’s relationship to the Latino cop? That’s something you don’t usually see in films, where the Hispanic is the law enforcement person and the Euro-America is the criminal.

I don’t know. I can’t touch on the race thing because I have never thought about it. I know it seemed normal, where I come from there are lot of Hispanic cops. [It] never seemed abnormal. There are more Hispanic cops than there are white cops. That’s just me though. I don’t know how it would be for the rest of the world, or the rest of the country for that matter, but I live in Los Angeles and there’s a huge population of Hispanic people out here, more so than white people.

You’re in this sort of “Young Hollywood ” world, do you resist the temptation that’s out there? There are a lot of young kids who have been getting into a lot of trouble these days.

Are you talking about drugs?

Yeah, drugs. There’s a whole scene out there. Do you see it as any temptation? How do you stay away from it?

My dad was a drug dealer for most of my life. I’m sure there was a time when drugs were really fun for my dad, but after you have a kid, the party is over. I got to grow up in a situation where drugs were demonic. To watch your dad going through heroin withdrawals is something that would stray you from doing any of that. And knowing that it started with him smoking cigarettes and then smoking weed, and then it all led into [heroin]. He also grew up in a different time, Hollywood was a different time, and the world was a different time where literally they’d line up coke lines on the craft services tables for grips.

This is the 70’s, not that long ago. It is all available now, but it’s become so corporate now that drugs don’t fit in the corporate scheme of things, so drugs aren’t in Hollywood as you might think. There are in the party scene, but that’s Los Angeles , not necessary Hollywood . People get into drugs, especially at my age, because of curiosity. I’ve just never been curious. To say I’ve never smoked pot would be insane. To say I never had a drink would be insane. I mean I had a drink at my bar mitzvah. I had my first joint before I had my first drink. My parents always thought weed was healthier than alcohol. If you look at the science of it, it’s the truth.

Nobody has ever died smoking weed, not that I’m endorsing it because it leads to other shit. That is why weed is bad because you start feeling, oh weed is ok and coke shouldn’t be that bad. And coke not anywhere near as [harmless]. I know a lot about drugs and educated to it. I grew up around it and I’ve just never been something I’ve [been into]. It’s not my vice. I smoke cigarettes but I don’t drink coffee because I get anxiety attacks. Being on coke I would die. I just know myself enough. And that seems to be the big drug out here is cocaine.

But there’s never been an inkling of curiosity, or why don’t I try this. And my dad always said, once you try it your life is over. I just come from another school. I was raised a different way. You watch someone kick heroin, I just tell you there is no [desire to try it]. And the party scene is just lame. A bunch of people I don’t have any reason to be around. And too many important people go to those types of places for me to even be partying around them. I’m trying to present myself as an actor and professional, and then on my nighttime I’m hanging out and drinking and acting crazy, then I’m perpetuating a personality and not a performance. Sometimes the perception is more important than what you actually put on screen - at least in the business for sure.

How’s your dad now?

He’s great. He’s clean. He’s painting. He’s great. The business changed me and my dad’s entire relationship. I didn’t have a relationship with him beforehand. After the heroin thing, he went into the VA hospital to kick [his habit]. He was out of my life you know. He didn’t come back into my life until “Even Stevens” happened, because he needed a job and I needed a parent on set so this was his occupation. “Hey dad, come be a dad again. Here’s $800 a week .” That’s initially how it started. And we created a rapport. You’re with someone for three years, every day… I’ve never had a dad like that. Money kept him around and after that came this relationship. But for the first year, I imagine he was there for an occupation. And after that we create a relationship. This business has given me more than just the roles, and the people I’ve been able to meet but also kind of given me stability in my family.

How old were you when that happened?

Ten or eleven.

How technologically savvy are you? This character seems [quite savvy].

Just as normal as anybody. [My character of] Kale is like MacGyver, he’s on a different level. I wouldn’t be able to take things apart and put them back together anything. I have a cell phone and a computer like any normal person. Did you have any kind of role in shaping the way the room was going to be like, in particular the posters that were on the wall? Oh, yeah. It’s funny because people who appear to be rebels like for real, for real, and they may like things that you would never think. Like Britney Spears posters might be on their walls.

But for somebody who comes from the suburbs, their rebellion is about Hot Topic. It’s all about the mall. It’s the CBGB shirt. For a kid who lives in the suburbs of Thousand Oaks , they get their CBGB shirt from Hot Topic along with their spiked belt and their Converse sneakers, and they’re rebels. And they like the Ramones because that’s the f*ucking thing to like. It’s like certain actors who’ve never ever seen any of Sidney Poitier’s work but they’ll say, “Oh yeah, ‘Blackboard Jungle’ that’s like my favorite movie ever.” And they’ve never seen it, but thats just the cool thing to say.

[It’s’ the] same thing with teenagers. Some people like the Beatles because they have to, not because they heard them. Especially for kids in suburbs who are trying to perpetuate this toughness. I’m a rebel. I’m not from this place. I really don’t belong here. I’m a cutter. I’m so rebellious. I have the Clash poster. I’m into System of a Down. You don’t know anything about me. That’s just how teenagers are. We had fun with that; it was like finding the suburban, rebel posers.

So what level did you identify with this character? And do you feel like an actor has to identify with his character?

Always. Oh, sure. You don’t feel like… If you’re not rooting for your guy, your guys’ gonna suck. You always gotta look at him in a positive light even if he’s a rapist. You gotta start identifying with him at some point or you can’t play him. Cuz if you’re judging him, during the performance, people are gonna see your judgment. People don’t judge themselves during, in the middle of things.

So how are you most like, or unlike your Kale?

I have voyeuristic… I’m a voyeur. Sure. And most of… all of us here are. You watch reality shows or picked up People magazine or US Weekly, you’re a voyeur. You go on MySpace or Facebook, you’re a voyeur. There are just different forms of it, it’s all voyeurism, it’s just human tendency.

Have you prepared for roles, such as playing a rapist… doing something that’s a complete 180?

I’m never gonna be twenty again. And I don’t wanna rush things. I mean, I plan on having a seventy year career. That’s the goal. And Michael Caine can play a rapist now and it’d be really sick. And if he had done it when he was earlier, if he had done it when he was thirty which could’ve been sick too, he wouldn’t have things then. You’ve gotta save certain things. And right now I’m in a cool little middle ground, where I can play the pop role and then I can go back to this other dark world. And I can jump around; I’m pretty fortunate that I can make “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” and “Transformers”. And people don’t look at me like, “Oh, he’s trying to reinvent himself.”

Do you think your fan base has stayed with you through the years or do you think it’s changed?

I think it’s scattered… certain fans will go to certain movies. I don’t think they always go to movies that I’m in. I’m not a star. I’m an actor, so if they’re into the idea and the script then they’d come. I don’t really know. That’s not my side of things.

Do fans stop and remember you from “Even Stevens”?

Sure. Sure. All the time, that’s fun. But there was a long period in my life when I hated the fact that people remembered me from “Even Stevens”. I’m cool with it now. I mean, I’m proud of the show. And show’s like “Pete and Pete”, like quality kids shows. But still, it’s on the Disney Channel, there’s something that comes with that. And I never wanted to put out like a Quansa album, you know. That’s a whole different route. And, not that that’s bad, there’s quality in that, you know. But it’s just something that I didn’t wanna do and I didn’t feel comfortable with. But I could’ve cashed out, lived a really nice house with a really nice bed, and everyone would have been able to sleep.

From a collaboration standpoint, how is Michael Bay different from D.J., how is D.J different from Bill Paxton?

Bill Paxton… Bill Paxton’s a great director but it’s tough to take direction from actors. Because then you go back and look at all their actor work and then you go, “…is he making the right choice for me right now?” sort of second guessing. That’s innate, you know whereas with a director, they’re not trying to put their thoughts on you. You know. His thought as a director towards actors is the same thoughts he has when he’s being the actor. And not that I don’t respect Bill, because I do and I think he’s a great presence on screen. But he’s not a presence that I… I respect a whole lotta people.

And Bill is one of them, but, sometimes you’d second guess certain things he would say. And we had a tough relationship and then after awhile, three weeks in, I started going, “alright, this is Bill Paxton. Like, what are you doing? Just listen to him.” And Bill showed me a lot of things that I would have never of done. His favorite actors were different than mine. The Steve McQueens, the Robert Redfords, the “Stand and Deliver” dudes. I was into the dudes who would scratch and… you know, the fumblers and the stumblers… the Dustin Hoffmans and the James Deans. And you know, he was into them to and he liked the Steve McQueens, you know. The guys who could just do nothing and get you with a look… they’re both good, just different. And so in that movie, he was having me being the “Stand and Deliver” and I’m coming from… I think at that point I had just gotten off of “ Constantine ” and I was stuck in this like, rut, and he helped me get out of it. And he helped me as an actor, grow. But it took me awhile to get through it.

With D.J…. D.J.’s a whole different bird. D.J., like I said, he’s completely inclusive so you feel like you’re on a team. You don’t feel like you are getting direction from one person, you feel like its input from seventy professionals. It’s a very safe environment, you always feel like you can never make a mistake. We’d go off and do tangents, not ever see the light of day, just to get back to a place where we could get the scene. Because we unloaded so much that we could get back to this other world, and we would just play.

Michael Bay is somebody who just gives you the type of freedom where, it could be very scary for an actor. People say he’s not an actor’s director cuz he doesn’t spend a lot of time on it. But I think he’s an actor’s director because he allows you the freedom to do your own thing. You know, he’s not always passing judgments cuz he’s thinkin’ about the f*ckin’ helicopter that’s falling and the building that’s dropping and that forty story robot, you know. There’s so much to think about on a movie like that… he’s gotta be General Patton. I wouldn’t want necessarily a D.J. on “Transformers”, I just wouldn’t. I don’t know if I’d want that inclusive… I don’t know if I want all these opinions when my f*ckin’ hair’s on fire. I don’t want everyone talking right now; I just want Bay to handle this. It’s just different directors for different things. Nobody else can make “Transformers”.

Let me know what you think. Send questions and comments to [email protected].

Source: JoBlo.com

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